Ashraful Islam, Research Assistant, Textile Focus
Word denim comes from the fabric “serge de Nimes” made in France city of Nimes from where it originates. Denim is a durable cotton twill textile in which the weft passes under two or more warp threads. Jeans are just one of the garments made from denim. Because of its durability, it was used by miners workers. But in 1953 when Hollywood actors started to wear jeans to act ‘cowboy’ characters then It started gaining popularity. Around 7.5 billion feet of denim fabric is produced every single year. The Global Denim Jeans Market Will Reach USD 85.4 Billion By 2025 according to Zion Market Research. According to the report, the global denim jeans market was valued at around USD 66.02 billion in 2018 and is expected to reach approximately USD 85.4 billion by 2025, at a CAGR of around 3.7% between 2019 and 2025. But how and where denim jeans make and what’s its environmental impact?
Cotton to Denim Yarn
Typical denim jeans pant begins its life in a firm in China or India where cotton seeds are sown, irrigated, and grown for the fluffy balls they produce. Self-driving machine carefully harvests these puffs, an industrial cotton gin mechanically separates the fluffy bolls from seeds. But the cotton plants require a huge quantity of water and pesticides. It takes around 1,800 gallons of water to grow enough cotton to produce just one pair of regular blue jeans, enough to fill more than 84 bathtubs. Meanwhile cotton uses more insecticides and pesticides than any other crop in the world. On the contrary, some denim jeans pants (Carhartt, Vouri, Able, Patagonia) are made of organic cotton grown without pesticides and insecticides but organic cotton makes up less than 1% of the 22.7 million metric tons of cotton produced worldwide. Once the cotton bales leave the form, textile mills ship them to a spinning facility. A grand total of 225 pairs of jeans can be made from just one bale of cotton.
Processing, Dyeing, and Manufacturing
After that bale warping, rope dyeing which consists of twisting the yarns into a rope that is then quickly dipped into indigo baths, long-chain beaming where the yarn alignment in the dyed rope is changed from a rope form to a sheet form, sizing and weaving, finishing is done. After the finished cloth travels to factories, often in Bangladesh human labor is required to stitch them up into denim jeans, intricate work that machines can’t do.
All these denim jeans pant travel by ship, train, and truck to be sold in high-income countries. Finally, in a consumer’s home, denim jeans pant goes through one of the most resource-intensive phases of its lifetime. In America, for instance, every year, around 450 million pairs of jeans are sold. Each person in America owns an average of 7 pairs of jeans. Washing and dryer machines are used to clean denim jeans and pants. Both machines use energy, with dryers requiring 5 to 6 times more than washers. This dramatic shift in clothing consumption over the last 20 years, driven by a large corporation and the trend of fast fashion has cost the environment, and the health of farmers, and driven questionable human labor practices. It’s also turned fashion into the second-largest polluter in the world after oil. But there are things we can do. Try to look for textiles made from recycled or organic fabrics, wash clothes less and line dry to save resources. In lieu of throwing them away at the end of their life, donate/recycle/re-use them. There is so much hue and cry in recent years about denim wash because of water scarcity in the world. It took 150 liters of water to wash one pair of denim jeans but nowadays because of the improvement in technology, it can be done within 80-100 liters. “Peakwash Technology” is such kind of technology that requires more than 30% less water to wash denim fabric as well as it reduces the labor cost of having the capacity to dry the fabric automatically.
Denim and denim outwears are regarded as 21st-century clothing and the demand for denim products is on the rise all over the world. So, a small positive change in the processing and manufacturing of denim and denim jeans can culminate in a huge positive impact on the environment and surroundings.